Wonder Twins
Zan and Jayna from Super Friends
Publication information
First appearanceThe All-New Super Friends Hour
"Joy Ride" (September 10, 1977)
First comic appearanceSuper Friends #7 (October 1977) (Super Friends continuity)
Extreme Justice #9 (October 1995) (first DCU appearance)
Created byNorman Maurer
Bill Hanna
Joe Barbera
In-story information
Alter egoZan and Jayna
SpeciesExxorian
Place of originExxor
Team affiliationsSuper Friends
Justice League
Ten Elements of the Universe
Extreme Justice
Young Justice
Abilities(Zan):

(Jayna):

The Wonder Twins (Zan and Jayna) are a fictional extraterrestrial twin brother and sister superhero duo who first appeared in Hanna-Barbera's American animated television series The All-New Super Friends Hour. The pair can activate their superpowers by touching their fists and saying the phrase "Wonder Twin powers, activate!" Jayna can transform into any animal, and Zan can become water in any state. The pair also have a pet monkey, Gleek, who assists in their crime-fighting activities.

They subsequently appeared in comics based on the animated series and were later introduced into the main DC Comics Universe. They have since appeared in other media, including the animated series Teen Titans Go! and the live-action TV series Smallville.

Broadcast and publication history

The duo made their debut in The All-New Super Friends Hour ("Joy Ride", September 10, 1977) and then appeared in The World's Greatest Super Friends, Super Friends, and Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show. Zan (voiced by Michael Bell) and Jayna (voiced by Louise Williams from 1977-1983 and B. J. Ward in 1984[1]) are siblings from the planet Exxor (also spelled Exor) who were being informally trained by the superheroes. Unlike their predecessors, Wendy Harris and Marvin White, this pair was able to participate in combat with abilities of their own.

Hanna-Barbera animator Darrell McNeil recalls the twins were created by Norman Maurer, the Super Friends series developer/story editor. They were originally called Dick and Jane, and their sidekick was Mighty Monkey, before finally becoming Zan, Jayna, and Gleek. The names "Zan" and "Jayna" derived from the Edgar Rice Burroughs characters Tarzan and his romantic interest Jane. According to McNeil: "Originally Zan (Dick) had 'Plastic Man' powers and Jayna (Jane) could transform into anything, not just animals, but they were scaled back to their present powers as it made the other Super Friends (even Superman) seem almost superfluous".[2] Jayna's distinctive hairdo was based on that of an animation checker at Hanna-Barbera, while the pointed ears were inspired by the character Spock from the Star Trek franchise. The twins' personalities were heavily based on Donny and Marie Osmond, who were extremely popular at the time and had their own show on ABC as well.[3]

The Wonder Twins were the most prominently featured characters in their first season on Super Friends. However, by the final seasons, the twins were largely marginalized in favor of well established DC Comics teenage superheroes like Firestorm, and were wholly eliminated in the final season in favor of Cyborg.[3]

The characters were introduced to comics in issue #7 of the Super Friends tie-in series (cover-dated October 1977, but published in July), by E. Nelson Bridwell and Ramona Fradon. The Super Friends comic book provided considerably more details of the Wonder Twins' background and how they came to join the team than was provided in the television series. Because of the different production lag times between animation and comics, the first comic book appearance is chronologically before the first television appearance.[3]

In the 1990s, they were introduced into the main DC Universe in Extreme Justice #9 (October 1995), by Ivan Velez, Jr. and Al Rio. The series rewrote and updated their origin story. Velez, an avowed die-hard fan of the Wonder Twins, intended to begin a revival of the characters, but was taken off the series after the first issue with the Wonder Twins. Though the twins remained with the series until its cancellation with #18, they were used only sparingly after Velez's departure.[3]

Following the cancellation of Extreme Justice, the Wonder Twins showed up only sporadically in the DC Universe. After 2003, they made no significant appearance for sixteen years. In 2019, however, the characters enjoyed a revival when DC published a six-issue Wonder Twins miniseries, written by Mark Russell and drawn by Stephen Byrne.[4] The series was a critical and commercial success, and was extended into a 12 issue maxi-series.

In November 2019, the first 6 issues of "Wonder Twins" were collected as a trade paper back, and released under the title "Wonder Twins - Activate". In the following August, the second six issues of the maxi-series were released in another trade paper back titled "The Fall & Rise of the Wonder Twins".

Fictional character biography

Super Friends

Little background is provided for the Wonder Twins in the Super Friends cartoon, save that they are superheroes-in-training that are friends of the Super Friends and were born on November 6.

According to the 1977 Super Friends comic book by writer E. Nelson Bridwell and artist Ramona Fradon, Zan and Jayna are Exxorian. The twins are metas, genetic throwbacks to an ancient race of Exxorian shapeshifters.[5] Their parents died when they were still babies during a plague, and, because of their origin, no Exxorians want to adopt them. They are adopted by the owner of a Space Circus who only wants to use them as sideshow freaks. However, the circus' clown (or "laugh-maker") is a kind man and raises them. He also gives them Gleek as a pet. Eventually, as teens, the pair escapes the circus and hides on a planet where a space villain called Grax (an enemy of Superman) has established his headquarters. Spying on him, they learn that Grax is planning to destroy the Earth using hidden superbombs. The twins decide to travel to Earth and warn the Justice League, which is how they come to replace Wendy and Marvin (who were planning on retiring as heroes anyway) as their sidekicks. The heroes arrange for the kids to live with an old scientist named Professor Carter Nichols and they even take secret identities as Johan and Joanna Fleming. "Johan" and "Johanna" were supposedly transfer students from Esko, Sweden, disguised with blonde hair (Zan wore a wig, while Jayna used her powers to transform into a human to change her hair color and ear shape), to allow them to attend Gotham City High School.[citation needed]

According to the twins' self-titled 2019 series, Zan is older by three minutes.[6]

In comics

Todd Nauck redesign of the characters for a 2002–03 Young Justice storyline

In 1996, the twins were introduced into post-Crisis DC continuity in the series Extreme Justice as escaped slaves of an alien overlord. Unable to speak English, they inadvertently attack some civilians and the Justice League. During their fight with the JLA, Zan becomes an ice golem, a water monster, and a demonic-looking whirlpool, while Jayna becomes a griffin, a werewolf, and a sea serpent.[7] The pair are later emancipated by the Justice League and join Captain Atom's team in issue #16 (May 1996).[8] That same year, they appeared in the crossover storyline "Final Night"[9] and in the series Total Justice.[10]

In a 2002–03 storyline by Peter David and Todd Nauck in Young Justice, they help avenge the murder of Empress' parents, wearing uniforms which resembled T-shirts and jeans.[11] In late 2003, they appeared in the fourth issue of the Marvel-DC intercompany crossover miniseries JLA/Avengers, which was written by Kurt Busiek and illustrated by George Pérez.

In 2007, they appeared in Teen Titans vol. 3 #70, and in 2011, and in DCU: Legacies #9, a story by Len Wein and Rob Leigh.

In "Smallville: Titans", a story arc in the series Smallville season 11, Zan and Jayna are members of the team with Conner Kent/Superboy, Speedy, Blue Beetle and Miss Martian at Jay Garrick's school for the "gifted".[12]

In Superpowers, a 2017 backup series in Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye, cartoonist Tom Scioli offers a slightly different version of the origin of the Wonder Twins, set on an alternate Earth.[13]

In February 2019, the first issue of a 12-issue mini-series was released on Wonder Comics, titled Wonder Twins.

Powers and abilities

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The Wonder Twins' powers are activated when they touch each other and speak the phrase, "Wonder Twin powers, activate!" Physical contact is required. If the two are out of reach of each other, they are unable to activate their powers. As they are about to transform, they would each announce their intended form. "Shape of...", "Form of..."

Zan can transform into water at any state (solid, liquid, gas) and add to his mass by incorporating water in his immediate area. In the case of becoming solid ice, he can also become any form he chooses, from a 5,000-foot (1,500 m) humanoid ice giant to a cage for a criminal to complex machinery (such as a jet engine, as he did in the episode "Eruption"). In the episode "Pressure Point", he changes into a gelatinous form. In "Terror from the Phantom Zone", he was able to transform into liquid nitrogen. In addition, he can transform himself into atmospheric disturbances (usually very localized) involving water, such as a blizzard, a monsoon, waterspout or a typhoon, as he did in the episodes "The Water Beast", "The Beasts are Coming", and "Stowaways".

Jayna can transform into any animal, whether real, mythological, indigenous to Earth, or indigenous to some other planet like Exxor. Since she must vocalize her choice of form to assume, she must know the common name. As revealed in "The Mummy of Nazca", naming the wrong animal will cause her to assume the wrong animal's form. She has been known to take the form of anything from a mosquito to a whale, as in "The Water Beast" episode.

In the Super Friends comic book, their powers were shown to be more extensive. By transforming into an animal of Kryptonian origin, for instance, Jayna could gain both the creature's natural abilities and the super-powers that all Kryptonians possess under Earth-like conditions; she was even capable of overpowering Superman in the form of a Kryptonian animal.[14] Similarly, Zan was able to transform into anything tangentially related to water or ice, including a frost giant in the "Demons of Exxor" episode.

In addition to their powers of transformation, the two share a telepathic link, enabling one to alert the other over a distance when in dire circumstances, as revealed in the episode "The Village of Lost Souls".

The Wonder Twins have a pet Space Monkey named Gleek, who has a useful prehensile tail and who can act as a conduit for the twins to activate their powers should they be out of reach. Gleek also serves as a courier when the twins need to travel: Jayna will typically transform into a large eagle, and Zan will transform into water, "jumping" into a bucket which Gleek will hold while being clutched by Jayna in her eagle form.

A rarely seen aspect of their powers is the ability to break mind control. On at least two occasions ("Pied Piper From Space" and "Circus of Horrors"), while the twins were under the influence of mind control, Gleek caused them to make contact and the activation of their powers freed them instantly from the mind control.

In other media

Television

Allison Scagliotti as Jayna and David Gallagher as Zan in the Smallville episode "Idol"

Film

Video games

The Teen Titans Go! incarnations of the Wonder Twins appear in Lego Dimensions. Additionally, The Lego Batman Movie incarnations make cameo appearances in the film's eponymous DLC pack.

Miscellaneous

The Wonder Twins appear in the Adult Swim web series The New Adventures of the Wonder Twins.[22] This version of the pair are well-meaning but inept superheroes whose attempts at heroism always end in tragic failure.

References

  1. ^ "Voice Compare - Jayna".
  2. ^ Marc Tyler Nobleman (2011-07-29). "Noblemania: Super '70s and '80s: "Super Friends"—Darrell McNeil, animator". Noblemania.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2013-09-10.
  3. ^ a b c d Schwirian, John (February 2010). "Purple Prose: The Perplexing Popularity of the Wonder Twins". Back Issue! (#38). TwoMorrows Publishing: 59–64.
  4. ^ Dominguez, Noah (October 6, 2018). "Wonder Twins Activate on First Issue Cover". CBR.com. Retrieved November 21, 2018.
  5. ^ Super Friends #7 (October 1977)
  6. ^ Russell, Mark (w), Byrne, Stephen (a). "The Great Scramble". Wonder Twins #6 (September 2019). DC Comics.
  7. ^ Extreme Justice #9 (October 1995)
  8. ^ Beatty, Scott (2008), "Extreme Justice", in Dougall, Alastair (ed.), The DC Comics Encyclopedia, New York: Dorling Kindersley, p. 117, ISBN 978-0-7566-4119-1, OCLC 213309017
  9. ^ Kesel, Karl (w), Immonen, Stuart (p), Marzan, Jose, Jr.(i). "Dusk". Final Night #1 (November 1996). DC Comics.
  10. ^ Priest, Christopher (w), Bernado, Ramón José; Morgan, Tom (p), Giordano, Dick (i). Total Justice #1–2 (October - November 1996). DC Comics.
  11. ^ David, Peter (w), Nauck, Todd (p), Various (i). Young Justice #49–51 (November 2002–January 2003) DC Comics.
  12. ^ Rogers, Vaneta (October 3, 2013). "BRYAN Q. MILLER Brings the TEEN TITANS To SMALLVILLE". Newsarama.
  13. ^ "Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye" #1 (October 2016). DC Comics.
  14. ^ Super Friends #42 (March 1981)--Jayna defeats Superman in a training exercise by becoming a Kryptonian Tanthou Flez ("Winged One").
  15. ^ "I Was the Bathwater - Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law - Adult Swim Video". Video.adultswim.com. 2007-06-22. Archived from the original on 2012-12-31. Retrieved 2013-09-10.
  16. ^ "Idol". Smallville. Season 9. Episode 8. 13 November 2009. The CW.
  17. ^ Miller, Bryan Q. (w), Staggs, Cat (a). "Titans". Smallville Season 11 Special #4 (March 2014). DC Comics.
  18. ^ "The DC Animation Resource". The World's Finest.
  19. ^ Kit, Borys (February 14, 2022). "'Wonder Twins' DC Movie in the Works With Adam Sztykiel to Write, Direct (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 14, 2022.
  20. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (April 15, 2022). "'The Wonder Twins' HBO Max Movie Powers Activate With KJ Apa & Isabel May". Deadline. Retrieved April 15, 2022.
  21. ^ Swift, Andy (May 18, 2022). "'Wonder Twins' Movie, Starring KJ Apa and Isabel May Cancelled at HBO Max". TV Line. Retrieved May 18, 2022.
  22. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "The New Adventures of the Wonder Twins". December 15, 2007. Retrieved November 25, 2017 – via YouTube.